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← Is Richard Dawkins an ape?

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

Is Richard Dawkins an ape?

Yes; he’s a human, which makes him an African ape, which makes him a primate, which makes him a mammal, which makes him a chordate, which makes him animal, which makes him a eukaryote.

In an interview

This happened several years ago. I thought journalism was meant to be a synonym for “news”.

Even though he did not intend it, Dawkins' statement brings out starkly the intuitive implausibility of evolutionary theory.

Given that “intuitive” doesn’t mean “real”, how do we know Professor Dawkins didn’t intend this?

one is immediately struck by the obvious falsity of the claim: No matter what he may choose to call himself, Richard Dawkins is certainly is no African ape.

What does “obvious” mean? That we shan’t get any real case for what is allegedly “certainly” true.

below are some things that Richard Dawkins can do, but which an ape – African or otherwise – could never do

How do you know? Only by insisting on a definition of apes that excludes humans. Biologists define groups cladistically, i.e. so as to include their descendants. Even on a “gradistic” definition based on organisms’ properties, it was an eighteenth century creationist, Linnaeus, who first realised humans have to be considered primates for anatomical reasons. Creationists (unlike real scientists) use words to mean whatever they feel like. The “these fruit flies you saw evolving are still fruit flies” complaint insists on classifying creatures in the same group as their ancestors, yet these same creationists won’t acknowledge this makes us apes. The reason evolution yields diversity is because individuals may be in smaller, internal groups to which their ancestor never belonged, making these groups new.

To suggest that there is some kind of fundamental equivalence between Professor Dawkins and an ape is not only demeaning, it is outright incredible.

I can credit it; I’ve seen the overwhelming evidence for it. Truth may or may not “demean” those who dislike what it turns out to be, but there is no longer any room for doubt that humans and other modern African apes share ancestors that were also African apes. Octopus intelligence may be high, but that doesn’t make it an insult to our cephalopod friends to note they are molluscs.

It is also indecent, since there is something almost blasphemous about a person putting himself on the same level as an animal.

Blasphemy is a victimless crime. Note every complaint here is of the form, “This claim hurts, so I won’t accept it”. That’s not how you work our what’s true.

Some people may think that Dawkins' self-description is a sign of humility, but the opposite may well be the case. Dawkins is a man who has been generously endowed with considerable abilities but who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the source of gifts.

If arrogance can consist in a bad attitude regarding the source of one’s gifts as well as their extent, surely it is more arrogant to think a universe containing tens of billions of trillions of stars was designed purely for the benefit of one ethnic group in one’s species. Yet this is the foundational claim of all Abrahamic religions. Why is Professor Dawkins so smart? Because he inherited the right genes to get a good brain in embryological development. Why is he so accomplished? Because he also had excellent educational opportunities with which to put his brain to good use. Imaginary deities had nothing to do with this; Yahweh is no more real than Thor.

(Bible quotation)

“X says Y” doesn’t imply Y is true, neither for an X of one’s choice nor in general.

No man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves

Hundreds of millions of atheist men such as Professor Dawkins are counterexamples to this. So Calvin is empirically proven to be wrong; this isn’t a matter we can continue to “debate” in op-ed pieces.

it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.

Stop calling things “obvious”; provide evidence they are so.

we have all been created in God's image. Fallen though we are, we still bear the divine stamp in our being. We must never forget that.

I’d have to know it before I could forget it, which means evidence for it would need to be provided. Get on with it!

we must not teach our children that they come from animals

Not only do they come from animals; they are animals. Let’s look at the facts: they are multicellular organisms whose cells contain eukaryotic nuclei, and they obtain nutrition from other organisms. That makes them animals. The definition of animals doesn’t have an “oh, and is also stupid” clause tacked on the end. If it did, where would the line be drawn anyway? I’m not saying there are non-human animals smarter than Kohlmayer, but this piece of his didn’t set that bar very high.

if we tell them that they are animals they will eventually start acting like animals

What does “acting like animals” even mean? The animal kingdom, of over a million known species, has a great diversity of behaviour. Ants have agriculture. Elephants mourn for their dead. Many animals exhibit reciprocal altruism and restrain themselves when they face their enemies. Are these not traits worthy of praise? The behaviour humans are most likely to exhibit when learning something must, by definition, be whatever those aware of such things in fact do; and nothing specific has been shown to be wrong with the behaviour of humans who accept the fact of evolution, compared with that of other humans.

those yearning for goodness, for love, for immortality and transcendence that sometimes stir in their souls have been implanted there by God

That’s not even grammatically correct. Did he mean “those yearnings”? Well, prove they are so implanted. In fact, provide any evidence of a god at all.

we need to teach them love and respect for our creator who gives us all good things, not only in this life but also in the one to come

I have a better idea: teach them love and respect for those we know to exist in the life we know we have.

Richard Dawkins' intelligence and the ability to speak [aren’t] a product of chance.

No; they are a product of mutation, genetics, evolution by natural selection and the British education system in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

They are gifts from above. He should not be using these gifts to demean himself or the One who gifted him so liberally.

Prove something you say!

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 13:02:53 UTC | #928278